Bodies Bodies Bodies Star Maria Bakalova On The Movie's Depiction Of Gen Z [Interview]

Maria Bakalova is the audience's eyes and ears into the claustrophobic world of "Bodies Bodies Bodies." Bee (Bakalova) is one of the two outsiders among a group of friends throwing a hurricane party in a mansion. She's a mystery to this otherwise tight-knit group, so when someone dies, people look in Bee's direction. That's about as much as should be said about Halina Reijn's horror-comedy, which takes pleasure in toying with audience's expectations. 

Bakalova, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm," pulls off a tricky performance in "Bodies Bodies Bodies." One, she plays the only reserved character in a house full of big personalities. Two, Bakalova needs to walk a fine line between revealing too much or too little about her character. She is in a murder mystery, after all. It's a fun role for the actress, who told us about her experience making "Bodies Bodies Bodies" in a recent interview.

'that type of fear and comedy satire reflection of the decade we live in is contagious, in a way'

This movie is a great time in the theater. 

Thank you so much. I think that the movie is pretty theatrical and that type of fear and comedy satire reflection of the decade we live in is contagious, in a way. A24 managed to create something that feels so authentic and contemporary like this right now. That is a mixture of, "Oh gosh, that's mortifying, and funny, ridiculous" at the same time. Yeah, thank you for watching it.

Halina comes from theater, and you have a theater background.

[Turns to look at her background] 

[Laughs] Oh.

I started in with the jokes because now I'm like, "Okay, I didn't get to do a lot of jokes in this movie, but I can do it now in the press." Yes, Halina is incredibly talented in every way possible. She is so sensitive and she knows how to express, to explain, to make you feel comfortable that you can dare to do something extreme. I think the directors who happened to be actresses prior, their directorial debuts are very much ahead of the way that they connect with their cast. She's been phenomenal. 

The background that she has that is theatrical has been just an incredible benefit for me, because we literally spoke the same language somehow, the way that she goes through the script, goes through the idea of rehearsing, table readings, physical blocking the scene, long takes that feel like a stage play, it's been amazing. I quite missed playing on stage. So having to work on "Bodies" and feeling like I'm still in a play felt incredible.

'I'm trying not to think about the jokes in general, even with 'Borat''

What were some of the major discussions you and Halina had about the movie?

It was very important to me to work and develop this character with her, because the character itself is so far away from me. I mean, I have to learn a lot of things from her because she's so private. That is so respectable and interesting, because I feel like the more mysterious you are, the more interesting you are, somehow. With me, it's like, whatever goes to my head, goes straight out of my mouth, which we have to work on that. But Halina helped me develop somebody that is mysterious. Somebody that is quiet. Somebody that has lots of secrets. Somebody that feels, but is afraid to say it out loud. That's the way they communicate. The way that they try to fit. The way that they even walk. Because it's such a unique part of human behavior, the way they walk.

Everything happened with Halina, through Halina, because the character was exactly the opposite of myself and the things that I did prior to "Bodies" in the last two years. I spent almost a year working on [her "Borat 2" character] Tutar, which became part of my life, which is so extroverted and out loud. It was interesting to try to fill these big shoes of somebody that has a lot to say, but will not say it. People will take that she's weak. She is the most vulnerable one and ready to, I don't know, to escape and cry and be shy when she might be actually the strongest one at the end of the day.

The misconception that niceness is weakness.

Yeah, unfortunately.

Since you didn't get to make many jones in the movie, how did you approach the few you did have?

I'm trying not to think about the jokes in general, even with "Borat." I mean, with "Borat," which was full-on satire comedy, I was approaching it as real drama, as a real-life situation, and with this one as well. I think the jokes in "Bodies Bodies Bodies," which there are not a lot of, are happening because of the circumstances she fell into and the way that she's approaching these circumstances.

These people around her that are so far from her, they have it all. They're like kids with privilege and having all of these glamorous ideas and possibilities to get them. So it's nothing like she's seen before, nothing she had experienced before. I think the jokes with Bee are the awkward moments that she just creates for herself because she's going to try to fit in the group, but she will not. She will fail because that's just not her. Just by going through the Instagram of these people or TikTok and seeing how impressive they are and trying to be impressive yourself as well. But by somehow portraying somebody that you're not, of course, is going to make you fail. And, of course, you're going to look even more ridiculous. So I think her funniness in a way is because of her awkwardness and because of her trying to fit, building a fake persona somehow, lack of communication, and she is a little bit too kind.

'What the god damn f*** am I seeing?'

Probably for a lot of people, you're playing the most relatable character in the movie. Did you see her as the audience's eyes and ears in this story? 

Well, we only can do so much as actors to try to make people empathize our characters. I think that's why "Bodies" was so well-written: You can empathize all of these horrible characters somehow. Because all of them are like, "What the god damn f*** am I seeing?" But at the same time you're like, "Well, I kind of feel for you." I hope they feel for her. I hope that the message had landed properly. 

Somehow I think she has the most objective perception of all of them, because she's just seeing all of them together for the first time, whereas they have seen each other for years and years and years, having all of the secrets, developing further more toxic relationships between each other. She's like the camera. She's like the audience, so I hope it feels this way.

They all do have moments where you think, "Oh yeah, this is a person you shouldn't just laugh at."

Yeah. Especially by seeing the ending and seeing how much they destroyed each other for this. I'm not giving any spoilers, but was it actually worth it?

Since the movie plays with expectations, and you're playing a mysterious character, did you try to do anything that would lead the audience to think one way or another about Bee's part in the murder mystery? 

Well, I feel like when the script is good, you just follow the script and the director's guidance. I try to be as honest as possible, because that's all I can do. I don't think she thinks she's mysterious. I approach her as Maria. Like somebody that is mysterious. She has her reasons to be mysterious. Maybe she doesn't need them, though, because the more secrets you have, the more weak you become because you have to hide a lot of things and you have to remember what you've hidden before. 

If you say a lie, you have to remember what type of a lie you've said. So just try to be honest, whether on screen or in life. It's easier. It's way easier. But yeah, she is mysterious. But she's just somehow scared of exposing herself in a way that she might look bad, she might fail. Which is going take her to a failure as well, because she's just so hidden and mysterious.

What read especially truthful to you about the depiction of Gen Z? 

Sarah DeLappe has done a phenomenal work by using the proper language and putting a meaning behind it, because a lot of people are kind of underrating the language that Gen Z and millennials, are using. Very popular words, we're using it without meaning it. I feel like all of these people, we can see, are pretty intelligent. They are intelligent. They're just using a different slang. So, that was relevant in the script. Plus, the way that they communicate with each other. I remember the first scene was starting with the kiss that is in the movie. And I was like, "Okay, I can immediately have a vision of how this is going to look on screen."

I was seeing all of these characters that have been introduced to me. "This is this girl. This is that girl. This is the boy of the group. This is the new guy, as well. Maybe these two people can be connected." I just couldn't stop reading in one breath. I was waiting until the end to see who did it and who started it? What happened? What went wrong in this whole game night? What is happening? And when I saw the ending, it felt like somebody slapped my face and I was like, "Whoa, I would've absolutely never guessed that's what it's all about!"

So did the movie end up very close to what you first imagined when you read it? 

Yeah. I was reading it and it was all of this mixture of genres that are so well connected. It's a thin line between comedy and horror, tragedy and satire. Because the bigger the fear, the funnier the expression, somehow. The deeper the sadness, the more satirical it looks, because, at the end of the day, we're so small in this huge universe and we're focused on our little problems when something bigger around us is happening. When we see them fighting about a podcast or fighting about, I don't know, a memoir book that somebody has written? It's ridiculous!

"Bodies Bodies Bodies" is now playing in theaters.